Guest Post: Juliann Rich

How to recognize THE STORY

It’s a day like any other day. You wake up at six am to the sound of an alarm blasting you out of your dream. “Don’t go!” you mumble to the young woman who is shimmering out of being in the muted light of the forest. You sit up, blinking, and remind yourself to put a new notepad on your nightstand.

You can’t help but overhear the couple arguing in the seat in front of you on the bus as you commute to work.

“I don’t trust him,” the woman with the frayed coat collar says. “There’s something wrong with his eyes. He’s shifty.”

The man next to her tightens his shoulders. You don’t need to see his face to know he’s frowning. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he says. “We need the money. Besides, Frank isn’t shifty. He’s just not overly concerned with legalities.”

You lean forward, partly because you want to hear more and partly because the bus is pulling to a stop, throwing you toward the couple and their money problems and their intriguing scheme that involves a man named Frank. But the man and woman stand as the brakes screech to a stop and walk toward the bus door that has swung open, taking with them their mysterious conversation. In the distance you hear the screaming wail of an ambulance, and your mind turns from the couple to thoughts of the catastrophe behind its rushing.

Such is a day in the life of a writer where the problem is not finding ideas to write about, but rather recognizing which ideas are the stuff of marathons. You know, The Story, the one that will go the distance and eventually become a full-length novel. For years I clipped newspaper articles and jotted down dreams and snippets of overheard conversations. I even started a few novels based on those flashes of inspiration, but one after the other, they all fizzled out. Until the day at work when I was casually walking down a hallway and an image flashed into my mind of two boys, one tall and dark haired and the other short and redheaded, holding hands. In the background I saw a peaceful lake and a cross by the shore and I was certain the two boys were at a Bible camp in northern Minnesota. This was the moment of inspiration that would ultimately lead to Caught in the Crossfire, my first book, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books on June 16th, 2014.

So what made that idea different from all the other ideas I’d had? What made it The Story?

First, it seized me. Literally. I stopped walking in the middle of that hallway and said, “Whoa. Now that’s a book!” My reaction to that image was visceral. It pierced my mind, my emotions, my spirit, eventually taking root even in my body. As I labored to write the story I became increasingly aware that this was necessary for the story pulled energy from all those same places. There were times when my physical energy was tapped, my emotions worn thin, my mind exhausted—and yet I wrote on. Why? Because this story was anchored in the totality of my being and so I was able to shift to a different energy source when one became depleted.

Also, I’d fallen in love.

Sure, I’d flirted with writing in the past. I’d even had a few flings with stories I thought had book potential. But they eventually lost their appeal when they made unreasonable demands of my time or my creativity and I’d moved on without so much as a backwards glance. But not The Story. No, The Story came to me like the recognition of a soul mate or the first cry of a newborn child. Suddenly, and with all the ensuing chaotic life upheaval, and I gladly made the sacrifices it required.

And lastly, The Story challenged me to face the juxtaposed inconsistencies of my life. I am the mother of a gay son. The daughter of evangelical Christians. The granddaughter of missionaries, and the niece of ministers. The Story demanded I look past the smooth surface of civility.

Talk about terrifying.

But it was The Story, and so I dared to look, and in the daring and in the looking I discovered something wonderful: that the deeper I dove into the teeming truth that lay beneath the surface of my life and history, the more The Story revealed itself to me, and the stronger and clearer my voice grew as I attempted to tell it.

So how do you recognize The Story in the midst of all the stories you encounter every day? It’s not the story you see on the bookshelves or in the movie theaters. It’s not the story you think publishers are looking for. It is The Story that will tap your energy and creativity, make you want to shift your priorities, and challenge you to face your deepest fears.

And when you find it, embrace it. Hell, even fall in love with it.

For it is The Story that will make you a writer.

About the Author

Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller the better! A branch thirty feet off the ground was a good perch for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.
Juliann is a PFLAG mom who can be found walking Pride parades with her son. CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE is her debut novel and will be available on June 16th, 2014. The sequel, SEARCHING FOR GRACE, hits the shelves September 2014. Juliann lives with her husband and their two dogs, Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Ms. Bella Moriarty, in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley.

Juliann recently won the 2014 Emerging Writer Award at The Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans.

Visit her at
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Check out Juliann Rich's new book Caught in the Crossfire:

Title: Caught in the Crossfire
Author: Juliann Rich
Publication: June 16, 2014 by Bold Stroke Books
Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Goodreads
Two boys at Bible camp; one forbidden love.

That is the dilemma sixteen-year-old Jonathan Cooper faces when he goes away to Spirit Lake Bible Camp, an oasis for teen believers situated along Minnesota’s rugged north shore. He is expecting a summer of mosquito bites, bonfires with s’mores, and photography classes with Simon, his favorite counselor, who always helps Jonathan see his life in perfect focus.

What he isn’t expecting is Ian McGuire, a new camper who openly argues against phrases like pray the gay away. Ian is certain of many things, including what could happen between them if only Jonathan could surrender to his feelings. Jonathan, however, tosses in a storm of indecision between his belief in God and his inability to stay away from Ian. When a real storm hits and Ian is lost in it, Jonathan is forced to make a public decision that changes his life.


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